PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — College investment plans were set up for more than 40 people — including many children — at the United Way of Aroostook’s recent Spring Fling.
“The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) was absolutely thrilled,” said Elaine Sipe, project manager for the UWA. “Because they don’t have a presence here in Aroostook County, they were ecstatic to be able to talk to so many people about the different options of grants that FAME has for people.”
Held at the Aroostook Centre Mall March 29, the event featured something for everyone.
“In addition to free train rides and a petting zoo, which included chickens, bunnies and mini goats, the first 150 people could get a free 5-inch by 7-inch framed photo taken with the Easter Bunny,” said Sipe. “We ended up having 160 children come, so 10 got pictures without frames. That was a popular attraction, as was the Magic Circus Train Station. Some kids went on the train seven or eight times.”
Angel King of Mars Hill set up a college investment plan for her newborn, Ruby.
“We did that for our older daughter, Layla, when she was born, and it’s already earned some money,” said King, “so we would like to do the same thing for Ruby so they both have some money to go to college with.
“We signed up for the Alfond Scholarship, and you have to sign up within the child’s first year, so the earlier you do it, the more money you have the potential to earn,” King said. “We wanted to start early so Ruby could start earning money right away, plus she gets the $500 scholarship. That’s what was important to us.”
Recognizing that Ruby is just weeks old, King said it’s hard to imagine her daughter going to college.
“It is weird to think about,” laughed King. “It wasn’t something our parents did for us; my husband and I paid our own way through school through loans and scholarships, but I’m glad to be able to put money into an account for our kids. At the very least it will buy their books if they choose to go to school.”
King said the family also took the occasion to see the Easter Bunny.
“We’ve seen the Bunny; it scared our 2-year-old,” she said, “and we’ve ridden the train and seen some animals. We’re pretty excited; it’s been a good morning.”
The Spring Fling was also an opportunity for low- to middle-income residents to get their taxes done by IRS-certified volunteers for free.
“That was equally successful,” Sipe said. “We had four people doing taxes and everyone was booked all day.”
Philbrick’s Bakery also sold such food items as hotdogs, chips, soda, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cookies.
“It was a fun day, and it went really, really well,” said Sipe. “Patti Crooks was absolutely fantastic. To give her time like that and to take all those pictures of the children with the Easter Bunny is a tiring and challenging job, and she did it with a smile the whole day.
“I also got students from Presque Isle High School to help me, which was great. They were running the train, and filling picture frames,” she said. “All in all it was a great day. We are hoping to do something like this again next year.”